Costume Plans For 2017

It seems the promise to bring you up to speed with this year’s costume plans “soon” now translates into “come April”.  Oops! This is what happens when you get caught between job hunting and moving house… The latter has just been accomplished successfully. So now the update on my historical sewing plans for 2017 can finally go ahead.

Without consciously planning it, my 2017 motto will be “A hundred years forward, two hundred years back” with respect to my usual Regency-era comfort zone. This means I want to work on some costume items from both the 1920s and the French cavalier era, around 1625-30. Both periods are well outside my comfort zone, so I am also planning some Regency items, to steady my nerves in between learning about new-to-me eras. ;)

The 1920s endeavor has already been underway since December. So far, I have finished four pieces for a basic 1920s evening wardrobe. With the evening mantle I made for the Historical Sew Monthly’s March challenge, all that is still missing for now is a matching bra. The plan is to get cracking on it at some point later this year. The pattern for it will come from a 1925 French fashion magazine. And, of course, I will show you the other finished items in a series of catch-up posts!

Brassiere pattern from “La Mode du jour” (1925). Click image for a PDF pattern!

The next big, slightly crazy, project I am just about to start is a journey to the late 1620s. Some time ago, I rediscovered my childhood love of “The Three Musketeers”. This also threw me into a little research frenzy on Cavalier Era costume. This way I learned that it is among the somewhat less popular and more scarcely researched costume eras. Though with the new Renaissance Costume books by Jenny Tiramani, Susan North and colleagues coming out, there has been more general interest lately. And, of course, I jumped right at the challenge…

For now I am hoping to put together one ensemble, to get a feel for the period. I am trying to keep it simple with a smock, bodice/stays, a bum roll (which I already have, yay!), petticoat, overdress and stomacher. Right now I am about to pattern a smock from “Patterns of Fashion 4”. The one in the picture is in the book, too. But I might be leaning more towards a low-neck version at the moment. We shall see how this quest will end! ;)

Woman’s linen smock, Museum of London (c. 1600-18).

The plan to make an overdress came together the moment I saw this gorgeous violet gown at Rüstkammer Dresden. Is it not absolutely lovely?

Violet silk overdress, German, Rüstkammer Dresden (c. 1630-35).

A flat lace collar is also in planning, but perhaps not for this year. I quite like the one in this painting from the 1630s:

Young lady with a plumed headdress, Artist unknown, Manchester City Galleries (c. 1633).

Now that we have arrived at plumes and portraits, I want to share one of my favorite Baroque paintings with you. Naturally my first go at the era will look nothing like this lady’s stunning velvet costume. But, there is nothing wrong with some motivation for the future. :)

Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburg by Rembrandt (c. 1633-34), Gemäldegalerie Kassel.

Aside from these two huge detours in time, some Regency sewing will also be happening. My first Regency project this spring will be a simple white dress to combine with more colorful accessories. I am going for something basic that is not super sheer and matches well with a range of styles. Something like this neat gown in the Met Museum collection:

Sprigged cotton dress, American, Metropolitan Museum (c. 1800-05).

For it I am using the Laughing Moon #130 wrapping front gown pattern. As a sleeve option I am favoring elbow-length sleeves. They are simply the best sleeve option if you ask me. Who agrees?

Laughing Moon Mercantile pattern #130.

Last but not least, this brings me to the aforementioned “colorful accessories”. For this year, I am aiming to make a sleeveless bodice/spencer to go with the white dress. Shape-wise I am looking at something like this one from the Met:

Cotton bodice, American, Metropolitan Museum (early 19th century).

But I want mine to add a splotch of color to the outfit, like the orange example in the fashion plate below. Also have a look at the lady’s wacky “bonnet” hairdo. I have a scrap of leftover IKEA reproduction cotton set aside for my bodice. The floral pattern should be really fun to work with. I am so excited to see how it will turn out!

Fashion plate from Costume Parisien (c.1800).

To be honest, as excited as I am for the Regency projects I have laid out for 2017 so far (maybe some more will follow), I am more than a bit nervous about my self-imposed 17th-century mammoth project. No matter how well it will go, the chances of finishing everything this year are slim. On the upside, you might get to see even more Regency items when things are stalling. ;) I know I can count on your moral support with this challenge and promise not to mope too much when things take up the next five years or so…

For now it is back to the sewing table with me. At the moment, the smock and Regency gown are pulling straws to see which one will be made up first. ;) I will keep you posted on the outcome. Thank you for your ongoing patience with me and the blog!

Much love, Nessa

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A Shortgown At Last

Finally, I got to compile the long-overdue post on my beloved shortgown I finished a few months ago. To start off, here is the finished product: I took these pictures after wearing it to one of my very first costume events (a historical market) so it is not perfectly pressed. ;)

The finished shortgown.

The finished shortgown.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The fabric I used was a gift from a dear friend who is a Regency/Federal-era costumer herself. She was very, very kind to send it across the Pond after I had spent weeks not finding a suitable fabric for the gown I liked. I am so glad she could help me out. But before I got to work with this beautiful fabric, which is a light, printed quilting cotton, I delved into research to get inspired about possible patterns.

Some Research
To begin with, shortgowns were present in women’s wardrobes in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 18th century the were also often known as bedgowns or manteaux de lit. And, while the general style of the gown stayed the same over time, some little details in the cut and shaping changed: Earlier versions of shortgowns were often cut from one piece and more or less symmetrical, with a front opening and a flared skirt section, shaped using pleating and / or tucking. Marquise wrote up some very good instructions for an 18th-century bedgown, based on Garsault’s book, here. Another example for this style, but with a more flared skirt, is the Kallfors gown from Sweden. The reproduction in the link also comes with a pattern. :)

And, while one-piece versions seemed to have been the rule, it is not uncommon to find gowns where the skirt section has been pieced on. This was done in the Kallfors shortgown, too. But it is not easy to spot from further away. Here is another Swedish example from Digitalt Museum where the piecing is more obvious in the lovely, bold stripe pattern.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

As time went on towards the Regency era, narrower shoulders and slightly deeper necklines made an appearance as working-class women began to adapt the look that was fashionable at the time. Isabella of the Two Nerdy History Girls wrote a very nice post that sums up these developments. With the changes in shaping, neckline and waist drawstring began to be used in shortgowns. Here is a Dutch example from the very early 19th century that seems to have a neckline drawstring and sports a leaner silhouette than the more flared earlier gowns.

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Another Dutch gown, where the drawstrings are a bit more prominent is this brown one. It has a visible join and drawstring at the waits, though the join might also be a casing sewn as a tuck. To me, this one looks super cute and very “Regency” and so it became the main inspiration for my project. Below, I will tell you how I went about making it.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

The Making
To make mine, I played around with the Sense & Sensibility ELC pattern I used for my stripe dress last winter. I went with the long-sleeve version of the bodice pattern. The only difference was that I included a front opening. For this, I added an overlap of 3/4″ at the center front and cut two halves of the front piece, instead of a whole one. Here is a photo of my cutting layout and the lovely brown fabric:

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

To finish the front overlap, I pressed over 1/8″ and sewed a tiny hand-rolled hem on either side. I think this is how I finally fell in love with making them. They did not take long and came out looking really cute, almost like iced on. After finishing them, I sewed the rest of the bodice according to package… erm pattern instructions. ;)

The 1/8

The 1/8″ rolled hem on the bodice front.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

The neckline drawstring casing I made of self-fabric bias binding, also based on the pattern. For the top closure, I sewed two small eyelets into the inside of the casing. They are set off by about 1/2″ so that they tie safely on the inside.

One of the two CF eyelets. :)

One of the two center-front eyelets. Below you also see the casing for the waist drawstring. :)

Like in some of the earlier extant gowns, I also made a separate skirt piece. I had two rectangles for the front that were 8″ long, plus 1 1/4″ for the top and bottom seams. They attach to the back piece at the bodice’s side seam. For the back piece, I played around with the pattern’s skirt piece, which has a curved top seam line. I trimmed it down to 28″ width, to accommodate one box pleat at center back and four small knife pleats on either side. At CB, the piece was about 11″ high and it went down to 8″ on either edge, to fit the front pieces. After sewing the three pieces together, I added two more tiny 1/8″ hems at center front.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed at center front.

After attaching the skirt to the gown, I finished the skirt seam with bias binding. I then sewed it up into the bodice from CF to the side back seam line to form two drawstring casings. The strings tie up to pieces of cord near the back. To finish off, I finally added a little decorative bow to the back. It helps to cinch up the waistline and nicely brings out the pleats. :)

Another “gimmick” my shortgown has is a bodice “lining” piece that keeps everything in place. It was a feature of the S&S pattern and I decided to keep it, since it helps a lot with keeping the gown straight over the stays.

The bodice

The bodice “lining” from scrap fabric.

When I wore it to the event, the lining and outer gown were held together by a total of 30 (!) short pins. And, after spending six hours plus in costume, the whole construction had not budged an inch. I also wore the fichu on the occasion, using even more pins on it and it behaved very well, too. This taught me again that pins really are a great period closure method. And that, no, they do not prick and poke you at all. :D

So, all in all, I am very happy with my first shortgown and actually having worn it “in public” for an event. Here is hoping that I can repeat this again soon.  Until then, it is back to the thesis and more sewing (yay!). Wishing you all a relaxed remainder of the weekend.

Love, Nessa

 

 

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Covering Baby’s Head – Georgian Style

Recently, there have been two new additions to my extended family: Two new baby cousins were born in March and April. They are both girls and look absolutely adorable. To welcome them into their lives, I decided to sew a little gift for each of them. Fitting with the HSM “Protection” challenge, I decided to make a pair of historically inspired baby bonnets. Since I have never sewn any clothing for babies before, it was a sewing adventure I was itching to embark on.

True to my favourite era, I decided to go for a Georgian / early Regency style bonnet. Since time was a bit short to get everything done for the baby girls’ arrival, I opted for a simple style, like the one in this 1801 plate from Costume Parisien:

Mother and child fashion plate; Costume Parisien, c. 1801.

This style corresponds fairly well to this extant American infant’s cap from the late 18th century.

Infant’s cap, second half of the 18th century, American; MFA Boston.

This is the simplest style of period baby caps to be found. It usually consists of two pieces: a narrowly hemmed head-piece and a ruffle or lace edging. Ties were optional and seem to be missing from many surviving bonnets. Beyond this very basic style, quite a lot of bonnets had extra decorations. Lace insets at the back of the head were a very frequent decorative addition, as you can see in this other cap from the MFA.

Infant’s cap with inset lace, 18th century, American; MFA, Boston.

Beyond that, some extant caps show off some very fine, drool-worthy embroidery in white, or sometimes even colored, thread. The early 19th-century example below is one of my favorites. Reaching this skill-level at white embroidery is definitely one of my long-term goals. ;)

Embroider baby cap, early 19th century, British; Textile Museum of Canada.

For my cap, I used Sharon Ann Burnston’s basic 18th-century baby cap pattern and tutorial. The original pattern is sized to fit a very small infant. So, after talking to some other seamstresses who have made it up before and also to the pattern creator herself, I decided to scale it up to about 125% of the size. This way my little cousins can grow into their bonnets over the next few months. :) Here are some detail pictures of how I made up the caps. Since they were so small and my sewing machine needed some maintenance, I sewed everything by hand. It was the quickest, easiest way.

The narrow-hemmed main piece.

After cutting out the pattern from a leftover piece of printed Swiss-dot cotton, I narrowly hemmed the bonnet’s main piece, using the rolled-hem stitch I talked about in this post from last December.

The laddered back edges, sewn 2/3 of the way.

Afterwards, I folded the bonnet in half, butting up the back edges. They were then sewn together about 2/3 of the way from the bottom edge. For this I used a ladder stitch. It is a more or less invisible stitch that can best be described as a straight version of the slip stitch, going from side to side in parallel, horizontal lines.

The radial pleats, outside view.

The radial pleats, inside view.

The open portion at the top of the back edge was gathered into radial pleats, using a circle of evenly spaced gathering stitches, about 1/2″ away from the center. I used a sturdier fillet crochet cotton yarn for this step. Pulling the gathers taut on both sides, created the little rosette you can see in the bottom picture. To secure everything, I tied the thread ends into a firm double knot. Then I back-stitched and buried each thread in the seam.

The lace attached to the bonnet.

Last I stitched some cotton lace to the hemmed edge, all around the cap. After that all I had to do was to add the ties at the “x” marks. For this, I used two 7″ long pieces of 1/2″ wide cotton hem tape. And here is what the finished baby bonnet looks like:

The finished baby bonnet, with ties.

Making one bonnet took about ten hours, or three evenings while taking a break from study and paper writing. ;) I am very happy with the outcome. And, hearing back from the new babies’ mothers, they were very pleased to receive them as a surprise gift in the mail. Now I cannot wait to see the bonnets on my little cousins’, once they have grown into them. :)

I should really try and sew for friends and family more often. But this year, time is extra short *sigh*. Although I am hoping to see you all again very soon.

All the best, Nessa

 

The Best Of Regency Stripes

Oh dear, has it been three weeks already? But now, the historical sewing mojo is back at last and I finally get to share the first details on my new Regency day dress with you. Yay!

So far, nothing about it has gone according to plan. At first, I was dead-set on making simple white muslin crossover gown. But then, I stumbled upon a sheer woven-stripe muslin in a clearance sale. It was so gorgeous that I fell in love the second I spotted it. Since it was an end piece of roughly four yards, I had to change my plans accordingly: The dress is now going to be a simple early-Regency drawstring gown.

Now that I am making a striped gown, I started looking into the use of striped fabrics in the Regency era. As it turns out, vertical stripes were very popular between 1800 and the mid eighteen-teens. And they came in many shapes, shades and sizes, from woven, over yarn-dyed to printed or painted. In this post, I want to give you a tour of the most gorgeous dresses I have found. There is quite a few of them, so we better get started…

To start off, here is an 1817 miniature of the pregnant Charlotte, Princess of Wales by artist Charlotte Jones. She is wearing what looks like a finely striped dress of sheer muslin or sarcenet:

Miniature of Charlotte, Princess of Wales by Charlotte Jones (c. 1817).

My guess goes more towards the sarcenet, since I lucked into an 1816 fashion plate from Ackermann’s Repository showing an absolutely delicious gown for half-dress, made from red and white striped sarcenet. Also note the contrasting green ribbons.

Red and white sarcenet gown from Ackermann’s Repository (September 1816).

Another illustration I found is an 1810 watercolor drawing by Johann Klein. The blue-and-white fabric design is very close to the one I am working with. That being said, I think that the trims shown here would also work very well on my gown. ;)

German Watercolor sketch by Johann Klein (c. 1810).

Dwelling on the subject of sheer woven-stripe dresses, here are two white cotton muslin gowns from the first decade of the 19th century. The first one is from the collection of the Litchfield Historical Society. It belonged to a Mrs. Lucretia Champion and was made in 1807. The second is pretty similar in fabric design, while showing off a broader stripe.

Woven-stripe muslin dress of Mrs. Lucretia Champion (Litchfield Historical Society, c. 1807).

Striped muslin dress (Tasha Tudor Auctions, c. 1800-1810).

As for colored striped gowns, there is an even wider selection of extant garments yet around. For once, have a look at this gorgeous blue half-silk dress from Nordiska Museet. Especially note the playful bias stripes on the bodice and the fine golden trim contrasting the vertical stripes on the skirt and sleeves. This one is easily one of my most favorite Regency gowns still in existence.

Blue and gold half-silk gown (Nordiska Museet, c. 1815).

Recently, I have found another dress from the V&A Museum that is just as stunning and even more extraordinary for its time. It is made from a yellow cotton knit and the stripes are produced by a change in knitting direction. Before I found it, I had no idea that such a techniques was around this early on…wow.

Striped dress of yellow knitted cotton (Victoria & Albert Museum, c. 1812).

Another dress is this late Georgian / Early Empire cotton gown from the Musee de la Voiture. Even though it looks a little worse for wear nowadays, I think it was a simple, gorgeous dress in its time. Shape-wise, it is also very close to the early-era look I am going for in my dress.

Late 18th-century striped cotton dress (RMN Grand Palais, Compiegne).

Another early example of stripes is this printed green-and-gold dress from the Museo del Traje in Madrid:

Early printed striped silk gown (Museo del Traje, c. 1795).

There are two more dresses with an earlier silhouette that both show off very special stripe patterns. The first is a black-and-white cotton dress from the Met museum. It boasts slightly wavy stripes that, I supect, were printed, rather than woven. The other dress was recently cleared from the Met’s collection and is now on auction. The floral stripes here are printed on a solid moire fabric.

American striped cotton dress (Metropolitan Museum, early 1800s).

Polychrome moire gown with printed floral stripes (c.1795).

About ten years later, dresses made from pastel silks seemed to be all the rage in terms of fashionable stripes. An example of the style is this mauve gown of tone-in-tone woven silk from 1807:

Silk gown (Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, c. 1807).

Quite similar at first glance is this mauve silk gown auctioned by Augusta Auctions. But here, the stripes are printed onto the fabric instead.

Mauve dress with printed stripes (Augusta Auctions, first decade of the 19th century).

This pretty, yellow gown from the V&A’s collection is also made from printed silk. Just like the mauve example above, it can be dated to the time around 1805. Based on the museum’s description, it features a drop-front closure and was originally worn over a “bum pad”.

Yellow silk gown with pink printed stripes (Victoria & Albert Museum, c. 1805).

The last dress on my inspiration board comes from a slightly later time frame, dating to the early 1820s. I included it since it shows a very interesting contrast between two-tone stripes, solid applique work and one of the textured floral fabrics that became popular later in the period.

American striped silk dress (Philadelphia Museum of Art, c. 1823).

This yummy example closes the long list of gorgeous Regency striped gowns. Whew, that has been quite a long list. I hope it has not overwhelmed you and provided you with some inspiration for your own future Regency dress projects, I would love to hear which of these gowns you liked best. Hoping to be back with you soon.

Much love, Nessa

Garters Galore

Today, the embroidery on the first garter has already come together. On this joyous occasion, I will delve into the subject of early 19th-century garters a little more and provide you with some delicious eye candy. ;)

But, first things first. Here is a look at the status quo of my embroidered garter fronts. By now they are both outlined in back stitch. And the bottom one is already filled with satin and stem stitch. Since some period garters also made do with rather sparse embroidery designs, I did get a bit lazy and decided against filling in all the flowers, too.

The embroidery progress on the garters.

I am quite content with how they are turning out, especially since I am a little pressed for time at the moment. But now, to the really gorgeous extant examples….

Up to the late 18th century, and into the very early 1800s, garters were mainly made of silk ribbons that tied at the top of the stockings to keep them in place. Embroidery was a staple. It was either placed directly on the ribbon or sewn to it, frequently with additional padding added underneath. Often, amorous and/or saucy mottoes were added to the designs. Here is a beautiful example of this style, using some delicious pink silk ribbon:

18th-century silk garters from the MFA, Boston. They read “My motto is to love you; it is never to change”.

Also have a look at this 18th-century pair with narrower ties and a wider embroidery section:

Another gorgeous pair of 18th-centuy garters from the MFA.

Further into the early 19th century, but already as early as 1800, innovation paved the way for another style of garters. It is elasticized using narrow steel springs in one half of the band. If you did not know it was steel, you could be tricked into believing you were actually looking at modern shirring, using elastic bands. This type of garter was fastened with a steel hook. For some time, both the tied and the hooked styles existed side by side. The following picture from the MFA shows them in comparison:

Comparison of tied and elasticized garters (Source: mfa.org).

Before I started researching, I had no idea that elasticized garters had already come into use this early on. And now, this style really fascinates me. Here are two more extant examples of early “elastic” garters that have served as my inspiration for the current project. :)

Early 19th-century garters, elasticized with coiled wire (Source: lacma.org).

Early 19th-century garters, auctioned by the Cora Ginsburg Gallery (Found on Pinterest).

There are so many more stunning and gorgeous extant period garters still in existence; more than enough, to fill several blog post. Just have a look around! I especially recommend browsing the MFA’s collection. It holds lots and lots of extant examples from various periods.

I hope this post has helped to awaken your interest in garters. Because, small as they may be, they provide some great examples of period craftsmanship. Even though I am not quite sure how “crafty” my pair will turn out, I will try and keep you posted on their progress.

Much Love, Nessa

Another Way Of Spiral Lacing – Or Not?

After posting about the finished stays yesterday, a little confusion arose about how to lace them in a period way. Of course, we all know that spiral lacing with offset eyelets was the most period-correct method of doing it before cross-lacing came around. But, when I looked at the stays, I had to frown: The eyelets on the sewing pattern were not offset, and so they were not offset on the finished garment, either. And still, the instructions suggested to use spiral lacing with the parallel eyelet set-up. How can that be?

The pattern cannot be at fault, since it is very closely based on an extant pair of long stays. And JoAnn Peterson, the pattern author, really knows her Regency garments and provides great research for all the sewing patterns she publishes. If she does not use offset the eyelets, she does it for a reason.

So here is what I found: Offset spiral lacing does not seem to be the only extant method of doing up garments. Up to the 18th century, the majority of documented bodices and stays were constructed with this lacing method in mind, since it provides the proper structure for tightening a corset. This is also what Jen Thompson’s research on spiral lacing suggests. Please do check out her blog for her finds and a very in-depth spiral lacing tutorial.

But this is not the end of the story. Offset spiral lacing has a sloppy little cousin: The parallel spiral. While researching period lacing methods, I lucked into a very old article with an engraving of 17th to 18th-century lacing patterns:

Diagram of extant lacing patterns from the 17th/18th century. (Please click image for article.)

Now look at pattern A and compare it to pattern E. Drawn up tightly, they would create a somewhat similar picture. The article’s author also admits that pattern E was the most common lacing style he has found in historical sources. But A definitely also existed in documentations. If it was used in corsetry, though, remains hard to say.

With this picture in mind, I went back to the pattern envelope of my stays, and looked at the pictures there. It turns out that pattern A was exactly what JoAnn referred to as “spiral lacing” in her instructions. So this is what I did. Now my stays look like this:

Parallel spiral lacing on the stays.

What does this mean for you as a costumer? If you want to imitate spiral lacing on stays or bodices with parallel eyelets, you do not have to resort to ladder lacing (pattern B above) right away, if you do not want to. You can try and use parallel spiral lacing instead. Even though the historical evidence remains somewhat patchy, it will get you a little closer to the desired effect. Maybe “closer” is not 100% accurate, but at the moment, it will do for me. ;) Using it has made self-lacing a bit easier than with the previous crossed pattern, too…

Wishing you a calm and happy week!

Warmly, Nessa
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Aprons Galore

In good time for the Historical Sew Monthly’s May challenge, I am back to give you some background information on my monthly project. The challenge’s theme is “Practicality”, and in my case this entails making an Edwardian apron. Yet it will not be a simple one that ties at the back. I have already finished one of these about two years ago:

A simple Edwardian maid’s apron I finished in 2014, based on Tudor Link’s free pattern.

Instead, I will be sewing a full pinafore apron, which is the apron of my dreams. Ever since starting historical sewing, I have wanted one to wear over my school clothes while doing needlework. It will be very practical to keep threads and lint in check while also helping me not to lose any pins or needles. But, at the same time, my inner little girl wants to dress up in the pinafore to add an extra pinch of historical flair to the sewing experience. ;)

The pattern for my pinafore is from “Buch der Wäsche” by Brigitta Hochfelden, a German publication that dates back to the year 1900. It is rather wide and dress-like, with a bottom circumference of over two yards, and can be made with or without sleeves. Below you can see the illustration of the finished garment. I have chosen to make the sleeveless version, since it has such a nice shoulder ruffle.

Sketch of the finished pinafore apron from “Buch der Wäsche” (c.1900).

Today I have had a look around some museum catalogs and other online resources to find surviving period examples of similar aprons. Surprisingly, the search did not come up with many results. Most of the aprons I have found have a very full bib and skirt at the front while still tying at the back. Of these, Bethany’s gorgeous reconstruction has stricken me as especially lovely. :)

The closest to “my” pinafore I have found is this extant apron pattern sold on Etsy:

Extant Edwardian pinafore pattern, found on Etsy.

Another apron I found, is a beautifully patterned, early nineteenth-century Russian apron from the Met Museum’s collection. It features a high, almost Empire-style waistline and a full bodice with a laced back closure.

Russian apron from the Met Museum (early 1800s) – front view.

Russian apron from the Met Museum (early 1800s) – side back view.

The last extant apron I have encountered is a pinafore from 1860. It is very dainty and has some delicious lace details to drool over. Yet it looks rather short and was most likely made to be worn by a girl or slender young lady.

Short pinafore apron from the Met Museum (c.1860).

These are all the results today’s search has produced. Each of them is very pretty and special in its own way. But none looks quite like the pinafore I am making for the current challenge. Now I am even more excited to see how the finished apron will turn out. And perhaps, I have managed to pass on a little bit of pleasant anticipation to you, too. ;)

In my next post, I will write some more about the pinafore’s pattern diagrams, fabric and sewing instructions.

Until very soon, Nessa

War & Peace: Josephine’s Toque

With the exam season finally coming to a close, it is due time for me to fill you in on my April “War & Peace” endeavor. I have thought long and hard about this one but, at last, I have come up with a solution of which I am very happy. As a result, this month’s thing item will focus on Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine de Bonaparte. Here is a posthumous engraving of the two, walking in the gardens of their estate at Malmaison:

Posthumous engraving of Napoleon I and Josephine, c. 1824 (Found on The History Blog).

The Backstory

Now, how is this project linked to the “War & Peace” challenge theme? Well, I have thought about it in the following way: The piece I am making is meant to portray the wealth and splendor that can be achieved through a series of successful war campaigns. With Napoleon turning himself into the ruler of France and becoming the protector of an increasing number of territories, his success on the battlefields also reflects on his wife and family. During the first decade of the 19th century, Josephine enjoyed the status of a fashion icon, sporting an impressive collection of lavish outfits.

For this challenge I will be making my own lavish fashion item, based on one of hers. It is a gold-embroidered turban cap, or toque, modeled after this extant one:

Josephine’s extant, gold-embroidered toque.

Making Up The Toque

Based on the photos and this tutorial from the Oregon Regency Society, I patterned my own cap. Instead of a circle, my crown came out slightly more oval, with the vertical diameter being slightly longer than the horizontal one. To find the right drape and sizing, I made a muslin and adjusted it by the trial and error method. Here is a quick photo history of my tries:

My toque mock-ups, progressing from left to right.

With the final pattern down, I decided on how to embellish the finished product. As a student, splurging on lavish decorations is not always easy, but I have found my fill of nice things to use: Textured gold embroidery floss, some washable seed pearls and a reasonably priced length of gold braid. Seeing as the braid color does not match the thread all that well, i might leave this one for another project… ;)

The modest selection of embellishments ;).

As for the embroidery design, I decided to swap the Napoleonic bees, which were mainly reserved to be used by the members of his royal family, for a period leaf pattern which I outlined onto my net fabric with a pattern marker. At the moment I am in the process of embroidering it.

The outline embroidery pattern on the crown.

The plan is to also repeat the leaf design on the cap’s band, using the beads. Since I have never beaded anything before, it is something I would really love to try. But, until then, there is still a mountain of gold embroidery to tackle… Although, at the current rate, it is likely that I will finish my “Practicality” item for the May challenge before the toque. I will keep you posted on the progress on either front. (No pun intended ;) .)

Love, Nessa

P.S.: Today, Cassidy has posted a more general overview of the Napoleonic War’s impact on fashion across Europe and America on her blog. It sets a nice backdrop for the “War & Peace” challenge and is well worth checking out.

Early Regency Cloaks: A Quick Overview

Finally I have found a moment, between all the exams, to bring a bit of cloak-related research to you. I will tell you a little about the cloak I am making for the HSM “Blue” challenge and give you a few key facts on the sizing and construction of cloaks in the late 18th and early 19th century in general. Here we go. If you already own a cloak, now would be a good time to get it. Our ride will be somewhat speedy and I would not want you to catch a draught. ;)

A few words about “my” cloak:
The garment I am working on is based on this gorgeous brown cloak, which was auctioned at Christie’s a few years ago. Its date of manufacture is given as 1799, which makes it a very early specimen on Regency capes and overcoats. This is why its width and hood shape are still very close to other examples from a little earlier in the 18th century. We will learn a bit more about these things in the following paragraphs. But first, here is a photo of the 1799 Regency cloak and another late-18th century wool cloak from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. As you can see, they share some similarities:

1799 Regency cloak, auctioned at Christie’s.

 

Red wool cloak from the last third of the 18th century, Met Museum.

The cloak body:

As you can see, the capes and cloaks of the Georgian and early Regency eras had a rather full, voluminous body, similar to the plissé cloaks that were popular throughout the 1700s. As a general estimate, the cloak body was about 4 yards wide and 1 yard long. The mass of fabric was than either pleated directly into the hood, or into a fitted shoulder yoke. You can see the first method on the red cloak, which also features an extra collar, attached to the body. My version, on the other hand, has a yoke.

Fabric-wise, most cloaks I have seen were made using different weights of wool. It also seems that the cloak body was often unlined. Furthermore, red was a very frequent color choice for cloaks and coats, all through the Regency era. There was quite a long time, when the circular red walking cape was a staple in the fashionable Regency lady’s outdoor wardrobe. The Jane Austen Center has dedicated a short article to this phenomenon and its anachronistic charm. On their website, you will also find a tutorial to create your very own circular walking cape.

The hood:

Opposed to the cloak body, the hood was usually lined with silk or similar soft fabrics. It was rather large and round, to accommodate the high hairdos many ladies sported in the 18th century. The shaping found its way into the early Regency era, too. It was achieved by rounding off the hood’s underside and by gathering the back portion of the hood, using a technique called “fan pleating” or “radial pleating”. Most often, the fan pleats took a round shape. But there were also straight and semi-circular patterns.

Fan pleats, in the hood of the red cloak.

Making the hood:

I fan-pleated my hood, using the translated instructions from Garsault’s 1760s book “L’art du Tailleur”. You can find them on Marquise’s website, along with the instructions for making mantlets and plissés, taken from the same publication. Following Garsault’s pattern, I folded in half a 45 x 90 cm square of fabric and cut out a wedge at the fold’s bottom end, taking out about a third of the center back length. I then cut the lining in the same way.

This shape makes the hood’s neck edge more fitted, while the resulting tip also serves to give the pleats an even, symmetric mold. After closing up the diagonal seams the cut has created, you make the fan pleats by sewing two parallel rows of gathering stitches, on either side of the center-back fold, through both layers of the lined hood. After pulling them up on the inside, you can add some back-stitches for extra shaping and stability. The diagram below sums up the measurements I used for the hood and the placement of the gathering stitches.

My cutting diagram for the hood.

To close, here are a few photos of what my finished hood looked like, before and after putting it into the yoke:

The fan pleats in my hood, before the final molding.

The side view of the hood with trim and shaping.

The hood after attachment to the yoke. (I added the ties in the same step as well).

For now, this concludes our quick venture into early Regency cloaks. When I find a little time, I will try to add an extra post on Regency-era fur cloaks as well. I hope you stayed warm, despite this post’s breezy pace. If you did not, now might be a good time to consider starting your very own period cloak… ;)

Best, Nessa

A Quick Museum Tour (With Dresses)

On my weekend out, I finally got the chance to visit a museum that has been on my list since its re-opening in November: The Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin. It is a rather small museum, for Berlin standards, but now houses a whole floor of extant garments. As a historical fashion nut, I simply had to go see it. And it was a very interesting visit all around.

Now I would like to share a few select items from the small Georgian and Regency collection with you. Due to the glass cases and the lighting, some of the pictures contain a little glare. I did my best to edit the worst of it away and hope you can still enjoy them. Next time, I will also take better note of the dates given in the display descriptions. But I was so stunned by the dresses, I simply forgot…

Georgian transitional gown (late 1780s-1790s).

 

Transitional chemise dress with train (1790s-1800).

Chemise dress detail; notice the stem-stitch embroidery on the skirt and center back.

Chemise dress: bodice detail.

White gown with train (1800-1810).

Two white 1810s gowns.

Fringed gown, front view.

Fringed gown, front detail.

Fringe everywhere…

A green pelisse made of wool/silk.

The pelisse in detail.

A pair of brown satin slippers (approx. c.1800).

A good few of these gowns, especially the transitional ones, have really stolen my heart. Perhaps some of you have also fallen in love with a dress, or another. The museum owns some stunning  Edwardian dresses and ensembles as well. But I will save those for a post of its own. :)

Love, Nessa